The Environmentally Conscious Couple
"Ecologically friendly" and "wedding" aren't terms that you usually see together, but the fact is, planning an event that's environmentally P.C. can give your party a surprisingly beautiful spin. And it's not about putting the bridesmaids in nonleather shoes.
One of the easiest ways to honor the planet is by using the great outdoors as the backdrop. Any open-air space—a beach, the woods, even your own backyard—can make an ideal setting. Anita Weaver and Dean Boase held their October 2002 wedding in the rural countryside of Weimar, TX. "There were deer roaming the grounds and cows wading in the lake during our ceremony," says Weaver. "It was stunning." Instead of rice, the couple asked guests to shower them with autumn leaves. Botanical gardens, nature preserves, and arboretums also make great ecosites, along with national and state parks.
And don't think having an earth-friendly wedding means sacrificing style. From the Grand Canyon to Yosemite, you'll find four-star resorts that offer grand ballrooms, while abiding by strict conservation guidelines. For other options, check out greenhotels.com and greenerlodging.com. Both are reliable resources for properties that employ safe waste disposal and water-and-energy conservation practices.
Stars Who Say No to Meat
Some celebrities have a beef with, well, beef, and stay true to their strict vegetarian beliefs even on their wedding day. Paul McCartney and Heather Mills, who married in June 2002 at a 17th-century Irish castle, served a lavish meat-free Indian feast topped off with a sumptuous strawberry dessert. Following in her father's footsteps, fashion designer Stella McCartney also honored her veggie roots. At her September 2003 wedding to Alasdhair Willis, held on the Isle of Bute off the Scottish coast, the menu featured artichoke soufflé, organic mushroom pastries, and veggie burgers.
Yes, you can treat your guests to an organic feast—and not a spoonful of soy butter in sight. Check out the sample menu, perfect for a reception, from chef Michel Nischan, author of Taste Pure and Simple: Irresistible Recipes for Good Food and Good Health (Chronicle Books, 2003).
Niman Ranch BBQ pork shredded over
Organic mini biscuits
Caviar and Peconika vodka station
Elysian Fields lamb chops with organic, locally grown choyoga-beet mash and golden-beet syrup
Organic field greens with Great Hill blue cheese
Organic root vegetables and sunflower vinaigrette
Roast heirloom turkey with maple-roasted hubbard squash and sunchoke purée or pan-seared sablefish with whipped Russian fingerling potatoes and a wild-foraged mushroom nage.
Newton's pippin apple financier with vanilla-quince ice cream and maple caramel.
The Gift of Green
Do the planet a favor and say thanks to your guests with a take-home reminder of your earth-friendly day. Pine, spruce, or redwood saplings, packaged in pretty recyclable tubes, or personalized seed packets and gift-wrapped flower bulbs make great nature-themed gifts. The National Arbor Day Foundation (arborday.org) and vendors such as nuptialseeds.com and plantamemory.com offer a wide array of forest finery. If flora isn't your thing, give jars filled with organic jams, jellies, or honey. Handmade soaps or lavender-scented beeswax candles are sweet parting presents, too.
You can also make a donation to your favorite environmental charity in your guests' names. Place a note card (printed on recycled paper, of course) at each table announcing your green gesture. Or leave it to your guests to get back to the land. In lieu of traditional wedding gifts, Stella McCartney and her fiancé requested that friends and family give them tree saplings to be planted on the grounds of their home.
The Hype About Hemp
Thanks to its natural pest-resistant properties, this versatile plant requires no pesticides—making it a supremely eco-friendly fiber. Known for strong and durable strands, hemp is often blended with other natural materials like silk or cotton to make clothing or linens. Give your reception a little hemp haute by using fringed tablecloths and napkins, and even place cards created from the fiber.
Want to make a stronger statement? Walk down the aisle showing off the organic opulence of a hemp wedding gown. Visit organicweddings.com for a collection of glamorous—and groovy—dresses, ties, and jackets made from hemp blends.
What's Old Is New Again
Finding a caterer who will recycle bottles and paper products is a great start. Other ways to give the earth a hug:
Buy invitations made from recycled paper. Check out twistedlimbpaper.com or greenfieldpaper.com for eclectic ideas.
Give your attendants gifts crafted from previously used materials. Sites like eco-artware.com sell bracelets made from multicolored recycled-glass marbles, and cuff links and tie clips created from spruced-up typewriter keys.
Transform ceremony flowers into table decorations at the reception—similarly, altar decorations can be used to dress up the dance floor. After the party, donate them to a local hospital or senior citizen center.
Ask your caterer to give leftover food to a homeless shelter or food bank. Contact harvest.org to find programs near you.
Use centerpieces that double as favors. Table decor like mini-rose bushes or colorful vases made from recycled glass make terrific take-aways.
Donate your wedding dress to a charitable organization—the ultimate in recycling. Makingmemories.org sells once-worn gowns and uses the proceeds to grant wishes to breast-cancer patients nationwide. And ask your bridesmaids to give their gowns to the glassslipperproject.org, a program that distributes formal dresses to high-school students unable to afford prom attire.
Michelle Kozin, author of Organic Weddings: Balancing Ecology, Style and Tradition (New Society Publishers, 2003) offers these tips for cutting down on the pollution caused by your guests' traveling time:
Two for one. Find one location for your ceremony and reception—this cuts their drive time and fuel emissions.
Share the ride. Encourage carpooling and/or hire a shuttle bus to transport your guests between sites.
Fly the eco-friendly skies. Have guests book their flights with a travel agent such as Better World Travel (betterworldclub.com), which donates a portion of each fare to environmental cleanup efforts.